With a record of 75-62, the Phillies currently stand in their best position in years going into the final 25 games of the regular season. Given a milestone number of games remaining, we thought now would be the perfect time to dive into the final weeks of the regular season within the National League playoff picture.
The Phillies As of Late
Despite claiming the series victory, the Phillies are not leaving their series against the Marlins on a high note. After scoring five runs off Sandy Alcantara, the presumptive National Cy Young Award winner, the Phillies blew their lead in the top of the ninth inning. David Robertson earned both the loss and the blown save while Rhys Hoskins received much of the credit as well for a fielding error that not only tied the game, but also allowed the game-winning run to reach base in scoring position.
Since losing their last contest against the New York Mets on Sunday, August 21st, the Phillies have had 16 straight contests against teams with losing records. Instead of taking advantage of their schedule, however, the Phillies sputtered to a 9-7 record.
While 9-7 may have been enough to make the NFL playoffs in year’s past, the Phillies could have utilized this stretch of games to run away with the second wild card spot while possibly making a push for the number one slot.
Philadelphia will now enter the final 25-game stretch having fallen into the third wild card position in the National League with San Diego owning a half-game advantage over them.
T-Minus 25 Games Remaining
The Phillies’ final 25 games feature 12 contests against teams in the playoff picture, one of the harder schedules amongst competitors for the rest of the season. Luckily, this starts with three home games against the Washington Nationals and three away games against the Marlins.
If the Phillies are to get out of their recent funk, the Nationals are the perfect team to begin against. Having only lost to them twice this season, if the Phillies can capitalize and secure a sweep with Noah Syndergaard, Ranger Suarez, and Aaron Nola on the mound, they will be in a better position overall.
While the Phillies will want to do the same to the Marlins in their final three games against them in Miami, the actuality is that they will not sweep every bad team from here on out. That being said, one bad game cannot sputter into multiple. The expectation needs to be that the Phillies go 5-1 in the next six games. Any more? Great. Any less? Unacceptable.
The Phillies then face the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays in nine straight games against playoff-worthy teams. While the Phillies should hope to take one if not both of their contests against the Blue Jays, the real focus will be on the Braves’ series.
If the Phillies want to catch up to the Braves for home-field advantage in the wild card round, that will be the time to do so. It’s likely that the Phillies would face the Braves regardless in the wild card round, so the Phillies should look to gain momentum against them regardless before the season concludes.
The Phillies then end the season with a 10-game road trip beginning with three games against the Chicago Cubs before the Phillies’ final four contests against the Nationals. Then, due to rescheduled contests, the Phillies end their 2022 regular season in Houston against the Astros a three-game playoff tune-up against a potential World Series opponent.
With 13 contests against the Marlins, Nationals, and Cubs compared to 12 games against the Braves, Blue Jays, and Astros, the Phillies will need to be conscientious as to how much each game matters from here on out.
A Look at the Other Competitors
As things stand, here is the current playoff picture in the National League:
|W- Los Angeles
|E- New York
|C- St. Louis
|WC2- San Diego
First, the division leaders. Leading from the front, the Los Angeles Dodgers have all but guaranteed themselves the top seed in the National League. While the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves are technically within striking distance, being seven and eight wins out, respectively, it’s unlikely that the two of them catch up.
Speaking of the Mets, they currently sit 0.5 games ahead of the Braves in the NL East. The Mets, however, own one of the easiest remaining schedules in the NL with only six of their remaining 24 contests being against teams over .500. Three of those games are against the Brewers while the final three come as the calendar turns to October against the Braves.
Given the Mets’ easy schedule and the fact that the Braves have 13 of their final 25 games against teams over .500, it is safe to say that the Mets will likely claim the NL East title and the Braves have the inside track on the top wild-card position.
Moving into the NL Central, the Cardinals have widened their gap over the Brewers over the past month. Given that both teams have 10 games remaining against teams with records over .500, the Cardinals will need to have a serious breakdown combined with a strong finish from the Brewers to lose the NL Central title.
With the Dodgers, Mets, Cardinals, and Braves all essentially on lock to be in the postseason, this leaves the final two wild card spots up for grabs. The Phillies’ main competition for these positions are the aforementioned Brewers and the San Diego Padres.
The Padres currently own a 0.5-game lead over the Phillies for the second wild card slot. Of their final 24 contests, they own 14 against teams of winning records (Dodgers, Mariners, Cardinals, White Sox), the hardest remaining schedule amongst NL competitors. Given that they currently own a 21-31 record against winning teams, it is hard to imagine that their remaining schedule will be kind to them.
Back to the Brew crew, the Brewers stand within striking distance of both the Phillies and Padres going into their final 24 contests. They will have to get over some hurdles in the near future as eight of their next 11 contests are against the Cardinals, Yankees, and Mets. After that, however, they will only have two games remaining against a winning team (Cardinals) and 11 of their final 13 against the Reds, Marlins, and Diamondbacks.
It is also worth noting that Arizona and San Francisco could both theoretically make their way back into the fray, but given that they are both nine-plus games behind Philadelphia, it is a safe bet that neither team will stage a successful comeback at this stage.
How the Phillies Stack Up
The Phillies are, despite recent struggles, on the inside track when it comes to the final two wild card positions. With the easiest remaining scheduled when compared to the Padres and Brewers, the Phillies could easily make a push to secure a playoff spot this month.
The last thing the Phillies want, however, is to let the race carry on into October. The Padres and Brewers face the Giants and Diamondbacks to end the season, two teams whom, at that time, should be eliminated from the postseason. Meanwhile, the Phillies end their season playing against the best-performing team in the American League, the Astros, in Houston.
Houston, please don’t let this be a problem.
The Phillies can prevent it from being a problem, however, by executing in the coming days against the Marlins and Nationals and taking advantage of their final nine home games at Citizens Bank Park.